Sunday, December 30, 2012


On this 5th day of Kwanzaa we celebrate Nia, Purpose.  This day we focus on making our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

 Find out more about Kwanzaa:

The Kwanzaa candles and harvest
Symbols of Kwanzaa

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ujamaa... Cooperative Economics

On today this fourth day of Kwanzaa, we celebrate Ujamaa, Cooperative Economics. We are encouraged to build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses, and to profit from them together.

In the spirit of Ujamaa, I wanted to highlight a few black owned small businesses that I personally patron across the country.

Virtual Leap
Trinita McCormick, Owner
Raleigh, North Carolina
Virtual Leap is a virtual administrative professional company where we give you the JUMP on the competition! What is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome in the day of a business owner? They need more time to get everything accomplished! Our primary goal at Virtual LEAP is to free up more TIME in the day of small business owners, entrepreneurs and busy individuals to focus on true revenue generating activity. How do we create more time? We create more time by performing the administrative tasks that while necessary to support the business, do not alone generate profit for the business owner.

The Cookie Lady's Bakery & Cafe
Necola Adams, Owner
Merced, California
Mrs. Adams is back, creating "COOKIES WITH AN ATTITUDE" as well as delicious lunch menu for dining in or carry out. You can even enjoy our most convenient free delivery service. MRS ADAMS has tried her recipes from MERCED to HOLLYWOOD, serving gourmet & deli delights to family, friends and to the STARS!!

Divine Creations Hair Designs

Kay Owens, CEO and Expert Stylist
Kesalynn Wiley, CFO
Tira Merrick (not the owner but my favorite stylist in the salon:) )
Divine Creations Hair Designs…the dream of two sisters, who turned their vision into reality.
Fifty years ago their grandmother, Lady Eloise, worked hard to open her first salon called Reed's Beauty Salon. It didn't take long for hair to become second nature to eldest sister, Kay, who spent her days growing up in the salon and attained a passion for it. Ten years later, Kay struck out on her own, knowing her younger sister shared the dream of running her own business and had a vision for success. With Kay's experience as an expert stylist and Kesalynn's (Kesa) education as a Finance major, the siblings collaborated and opened Divine Creations Hair Designs. Their goal was to offer unique services, otherwise lacking in other salons and open 7 Days a Week.  Together with each other's expertise, they generated a formula for success. Today, Divine Creations is a viable business ran and managed by Kay Owens, Expert Stylist & CEO and Kesalynn Wiley, middle sister & CFO. Thus, from the hard work of a grandmother, to the dream of sisters, through more hard work and prayer…they turned their vision into reality.

The Kwanzaa candles and harvest
Symbols of Kwanzaa
Find out more about Kwanzaa:

Friday, December 28, 2012

Ujima...Collective Work and Responsibility

Today, on the third day of Kwanzaa, reflect on Ujima.

Ujima, pronounced "oo-GEE-mah" means Collective Work and Responsibility where we are encouraged to build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together.  This day reminds us of our obligation to the past, present and future, and that we have a role to play in the community, society, and world.

The Kwanzaa candles and harvest
Symbols of Kwanzaa

In the Symbols of Kwanzaa picture to the left, the crops are the Mazao which are symbolic of African harvest celebrations and of the rewards of productive and collective labor.

Find out more about Kwanzaa:

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Kugichagula....Day of Self-Determination

The Kwanzaa candles and harvest
Symbols of Kwanzaa
Today is the second day of Kwanzaa where we focus on
Kugichagula which is Self-Determination.

In the Symbols of Kwanzaa picture to the right, the candle holder is the Kinara which is symbolic of our roots, our parent people -- continental Africans.

Kugichagula...Day of Self-Determination

Kugichagula, pronounced "koo-jee-cha-goo-LEE-ah" means to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

Find out more about Kwanzaa:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Umoja...Day of Unity

Happy Kwanzaa!!!

The Kwanzaa candles and harvest
Symbols of Kwanzaa
Today is the first day of Kwanzaa, an annual seven day cultural festival celebrating the African American people, their culture and their heritage.  Derived from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first fruits", Kwanzaa has its roots in the ancient African first-fruit harvest celebrations. However, its modern history begins in 1966 when it was developed by Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga. Inspired by the civil rights struggles of the 1960's, Dr. Karenga conceived a holiday that would bring African Americans together in celebration of their black culture.  Each day of Kwanzaa represents the seven principles of Kwanzaa...the first is Umoja.

In the Symbols of Kwanzaa picture above, the cup is the Unity Cup or Kikombe cha Umoja, which is symbolic of the foundational principle and practice of unity which makes all else possible.

Umoja...Day of Unity

Umoja, pronounced "oo-MOE-jah", is a day of unity in which we are encouraged to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.  On Umoja, we are reminded that each member of the family, and by extension the community, is constituted by a web of interpersonal relationships. The health and possibilities of the family and community, therefore, is dependent upon the quality of relationship within the family and community.

Here is the link to the original Kwanzaa website:
Link to previous EH blogposts on Kwanzaa:

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas around the Diaspora

Here's wishing you all a very Merry Christmas from Experiencing History!

Swazi Flag Christmas Ornament
How to say Merry Christmas in several African countries:
In Akan (Ghana) Afishapa
In Zimbabwe Merry Kisimusi
In Afrikaans (South Africa) Geseënde Kersfees
In Zulu (South Africa) Sinifisela Ukhisimusi Omuhle
In Swazi (Swaziland) Sinifisela Khisimusi Lomuhle
In Sotho (Lesthoto) Matswalo a Morena a Mabotse
In Swahili (Tanzania, Kenya) Kuwa na Krismasi njema
In Amharic (Ethiopia) Melkam Yelidet Beaal
In Egyptian (Egypt) Colo sana wintom tiebeen
In Yoruba (Nigeria) E ku odun, e hu iye' dun!

While most of us in America will be eating a traditional American Christmas meal of turkey or hen or's what some will be eating across the diaspora:

A traditional Christmas meal in Ghana:
The traditional Christmas Eve Dinner consists either of a specially cooked rice and goat or chicken stew or soup and is eaten before the Annual Christmas Worship Service and all friends and relatives as well as strangers are invited. The food consumed at the Christmas Day dinners may include rice, chicken, goat, lamb, and fruits of various kinds. There may be mangoes, oranges, pawpaw or cashew fruits. The families always brightly decorate the houses with beautiful paper ornaments specially made for the occasion. A tree in the center of the courtyard is also decorated. It may be a mango tree or a guava tree or a cashew tree. Usually the children and the young people in each family do this. Not only homes but also schools and neighborhoods are brightly decorated with colorful crepe paper while we look forward to the Christmas Eve Services at the various churches.  Read more about Christmas in Ghana here:

Christmas in Nigeria
In Yoruba, meals usually consist of Iyan (pounded yam) eba or amala, served over with peppery stewed vegetables. Inevitably people find themselves eating this meal three to four times a day, due to visiting family and friends and being offered this tradition meal in their houses. In Yoruba it is frowned upon and is very rude to decline food upon offering.

There are many other dishes well prepared on Christmas Eve. A chicken and rice stew, similar to an Indian curry stew. Some families would prepare a delicacy called Moin-moin; which is blended black eyed beans, mixed with vegetable oil and diced liver, prawns, chicken, fish and beef. This fulfilling mouth watering concoction is then wrapped inside large leaves and steamed until cooked.

On Christmas day almost everyone attends church. It is tradition to decorate churches, homes and compounds with woven and unwoven palm fronds, Christmas trees and Christmas lights. There is lots of energy in the streets; festive jubilation's consist of loud crackling of an array of firework displays, luminous starry fire crackers going off. Colorful tradition masquerades on stilts parade around the events. Of course everyone have their best clothes on and children mill around playing amongst the fun.  Read more about Christmas in Nigeria here:

Christmas letter to my Motherland, Nigeria by Azuka Onwuka
"your inner strength is amazing, Great Mother. In spite of all the injuries and pains inflicted upon you, you remain strong. .... You have looked on in faith that some day it will be well with your home. You have remained hopeful that one day, your children will make you a proud mother....May it be well with you, Mother, in the morning. May it be well with you in the afternoon. May it be well with you at night. May your children who don't wish you well have a change of heart. May there be justice, peace and laughter in your home....As this year winds down, may 2013 usher in a new phase for you: a phase of peace, growth, prosperity and happiness. Merry Christmas to a special and longsuffering Mother. It shall be well with you, Nigeria!"

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Zuma Retains ANC Leadership

Jacob Zuma re-elected head of ANC
Jacob Zuma
South Africa's populist but often criticized president has been re-elected head of the ruling party, which makes him likely to win another term as the nation's leader in 2014. Delegates of the African National Congress voted overwhelmingly for five more years of Jacob Zuma.  Read more here:

Monday, December 17, 2012

I'm Black and I'm Proud...Racial Pride in the African-American Community

"Our study provides empirical evidence that the longstanding practice in the African American community of cultivating racial pride and preparing children to face racial bias in society should be considered among appropriate and beneficial practices in parenting Black children"  
Ming-Te Wang

I've been working on leadership development curriculum that includes identity development, specifically racial identity development in youth. As a precursor to this, I plan to launch a racial identity series here on this blog in the spring.

Interesting enough, I ran across an article today online published on, "Can instilling racial pride in black teens lead to better educational outcomes?" The article talks about a University of Pittsburgh study published this fall in the journal Child Development. Titled "Parental Racial Socialization as a Moderator of the Effects of Racial Discrimination on Educational Success Among African American Adolescents," the research article shows that when African American parents use racial socialization—talking to their children or engaging in activities that promote feelings of racial knowledge, pride, and connection—it offsets racial discrimination's potentially negative impact on students' academic development. They plan to carry out the same study among Latino and Asian communities as well. Read the entire article here:

Sunday, December 9, 2012

John Mahama declared winners of Ghana's Presidential Election

John Mahama, President of Ghana
Today's Ghana election results were announced.  John Mahama was declared the President of Ghana  Mahama took office in July after the unexpected death of President John Atta Mills.

John Dramani Mahama (/məˈhɑːmə/; born 29 November 1958) is a Ghanaian politician who has been President of Ghana since July 2012. He was the Vice President of Ghana from 2009 to 2012, and he took office as President on 24 July 2012 following the death of his predecessor, President John Atta Mills. He was re-elected in December 2012 following an election tainted by opposition claims of widespread fraud on the part of the Election Commission. A respected communications expert, historian, and writer, Mahama was a Member of Parliament from 1997 to 2009 and Minister of Communications from 1998 to 2001.

John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills
John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills (21 July 1944 – 24 July 2012) was a Ghanaian politician, a legal scholar and a tax expert who was President of Ghana from 2009 until his death in 2012. He was inaugurated on 7 January 2009, having defeated the ruling party candidate Nana Akufo-Addo in the 2008 election. He was vice-president from 1997 to 2001 under President Jerry Rawlings, and stood unsuccessfully in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections as the candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). He is the first Ghanaian Head of State to die in office.

Official election results from

Sunday, December 2, 2012

African-American Voters...More Than a Fluke

“In 2008, for the first time in our history, African Americans voted at the same rate as white voters. We spent the next four years hearing that that high turnout was a fluke. “Experts” told us we would lose our enthusiasm. We’d be daunted by new voting laws. We’d want to protest marriage equality. We’d think our votes don’t count.

Those “experts” were wrong. African Americans turned out to vote in record numbers on Election Day, many of us waiting in long lines and going through plenty of red tape to do so.”

Read the entire article here:

Watch Dick Morris' explanation (about 1 min 45 sec in the video) on how demographics have changed...Oh and Jon Stewart's take on Morris is comical as well...

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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It seems that many of the conservative responses to why the President won this election was not that people voted, but that now their vote matters because demographics have permanently changed?

What do you think?

I personally spoke with several young African-Americans who were eligible to vote for the first time and and voted and realized how their vote mattered.  The fact is, people gave their lives for the right to vote for all Americans and it would be foolish to waste it.  Now if we can extend this imperative to vote to the interim elections as well.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Congratulations President Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States of America

Today we congratulation President Barack Obama on winning a second presidential term.  Our prayers go up to God to provide wisdom, clarity, strength and protection for him and his family.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin

Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin

On August 31 in Black History....

Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, a black journalist and civil rights leader, was born in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ruffin was born August 31, 1842 into one of Boston's leading black families. In 1858, at the age of 15, she became the wife of George Lewis Ruffin, the first African American to graduate from Harvard Law School. During the Civil War Ruffin was involved in various civil rights causes, charity work, and the women's suffrage movement. In 1879 she established the Boston Kansas Relief Association, a charity organization that provided food and clothing to black Bostonians who were migrating to Kansas. Her philanthropic work brought her in contact with many eminent white and black leaders and her close friends included William Lloyd Garrison, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Booker T. Washington.

From 1890 to 1897 Ruffin served as the editor and publisher of Woman's Era, the first newspaper published by and for African American women. It was used to highlight the achievements of African American women and to champion black women's rights.

In 1894 she organized the Women's Era Club, an advocacy group for black women, with the help of her daughter Florida Ridely and Maria Baldwin, a Boston school principal.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Congratulations Gabrielle Douglas!

Gabrielle Douglas in action
At the Olympics today Gabrielle "Gabby" Douglas won the gold medal in the individual all-around gymnastics final.  Gabby is the third consecutive American all-around winner and first African-American to ever win this competition.  Here's Gabby in her own words about today's win:

"When I got to the competition and all the nerves kicked in, I didn't feel a thing. Tonight, I didn't think about avoiding mistakes -- that's what gets you into trouble. Instead, I just thought about going out there and representing Team USA, my coaches, my family and myself"

Read Gabby's blog post about the biggest night of her life here:

Friday, July 27, 2012

Executive Order -- White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans

Yesterday, President Obama signed the executive order kicking off the White House initiative on educational excellence for African-Americans.

"By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, to restore the country to its role as the global leader in education, to strengthen the Nation by improving educational outcomes for African Americans of all ages, and to help ensure that all African Americans receive an education that properly prepares them for college, productive careers, and satisfying lives, it is hereby ordered as follows.....

To reach the ambitious education goals we have set for our Nation, as well as to ensure equality of access and opportunity for all, we must provide the support that will enable African American students to improve their level of educational achievement through rigorous and well-rounded academic and support services that will prepare them for college, a career, and a lifetime of learning."

Read more here:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Access Granted to The Voice

“We are pleased to confirm that the International Olympic Committee has awarded an accreditation to the BOA, which will be allocated to The Voice.”   
statement by the British Olympic Association

When it was reported that The Voice had been denied accreditation to the Games last week it provoked public outcry throughout Britain when it was revealed that its leading black newspaper would not be able to cover the Games.

Thanks to everyone who spoke up on behalf of The Voice and also to those who signed the petition as well.

George Ruddock
"The Voice is indebted to the all our readers, supporters and the media who supported our application. Accrediation to the games will allow us to provide our readers with greater coverage from a black prospectitive. Finally, thanks to the IOC for granting The Voice accreditation."   
Managing Director of The Voice, George Ruddock

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Black Media Denied Access to the Olympics?

“After careful consideration by the Media Accreditation Committee, we regret to inform you that your application accreditation for the London 2012 Olympic Games has been unsuccessful,”
read the letter received by The Voice from the British Olympics Association. 

The Voice, Britain's oldest and biggest black newspaper, has been denied accreditation to the Olympic stadium despite the high number of black British athletes competing in the games.
Sports Editor Rodney Hinds says the decision was taken by the board of the British Olympics Association and “to his knowledge there are no black people on that board.” In an interview with The Grio, Hinds says it important for The Voice to get access because the stadium is the main venue for track and field.

The Voice was founded in 1982 by Jamaican-born accountant Val McCalla. Over the past 30 years, it has been an important training ground for minority journalists, where novice writers are given the opportunity to cut their teeth and develop before landing coveted Fleet Street or broadcast journalist jobs. High-profile black British journalists, such as Rageh Omaar and Dotun Adabayo, have all passed through the paper.

There’s no indication at this stage that there’s been a deliberate attempt to exclude the paper explicitly because of the nature of its readership. But having a publication like The Voice kept outside the stadium when members of Team GB come from the very communities it represents is unacceptable.

Activist and poet Zita Holbourne has set up a petition calling on the BOA to reconsider its decision.  Labour MP David Lammy, Jamaica's high commissioner Aloun Assamba and Simon Woolley, chair of Operation Black Vote, have also called for the decision to be reversed.

To sign the online petition,

"We must acknowledge the value of Black media here in the US and abroad.  It is critical that throughout the African diaspora, we tell our own stories in our own voice our own way."  CGL

Read more here:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Voter ID Laws...modern day poll taxes?

On July 10 in Black History...

Attorney General Holder spoke at the NAACP Annual Convention in Houston, Texas today.  During his speech he spoke of many things including how important the work of historical visionary leaders and organizations like the NAACP has been to our country.  What the Attorney General is getting the most attention for, however  is for comparing the new proposed voter id laws in Texas to poll taxes:

 “Many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them...We call those poll taxes.” 
About Poll Taxes:  In the United States, poll taxes were used as a voting prerequisite in the Southern states. The Populists, a low-income farmers’ party, gave the Democrats in these areas the only serious competition that they had experienced since the end of Reconstruction. The intensity of competition led both parties to bring blacks back into politics and to compete for their vote. Once the Populists had been defeated, the Democrats amended their state constitutions or drafted new ones to include various disfranchising devices. When payment of the poll tax was made a prerequisite to voting, impoverished blacks and often poor whites, unable to afford the tax, were denied the right to vote.  Poll taxes of varying stipulations lingered in Southern states into the 20th century. Some states abolished the tax in the years after World War I, while others retained it. Its use was declared unconstitutional in federal elections by the Twenty-fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, effective in 1964. In 1966 the Supreme Court, going beyond the Twenty-fourth Amendment, ruled that under the “equal protection” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, states could not levy a poll tax as a prerequisite for voting in state and local elections.

"So, this afternoon, as we come together to celebrate the power of individual voices, and the strength of collective action – we must also take stock of what’s left to do, and reflect on the responsibilities that each one of us shares ...Although the direction we must take is clear, the road ahead is far from certain."

His entire speech can be found here:

Thank you, Leon, for those kind words – and thank you all for such a warm welcome. It’s a privilege – and a sincere pleasure – to be with you; to be part another important NAACP gathering; and to share the stage with so many good friends, dedicated partners, and indispensible leaders.
I also want to thank President Jealous, Chairman Brock, General Counsel Keenan, and the NAACP’s National Board of Directors for inviting me to join you. It’s nice to be out of Washington today. And it’s an honor to bring greetings from President Obama, from my fellow members of his Cabinet, and from my colleagues across the United States Department of Justice.
I’m also grateful for this chance to salute the essential work that you are doing – here in the great state of Texas and all across the country – to bring our nation together, and to bring attention to the problems we must solve, the wrongs we must right, the divisions we must heal, and the future we must build. For more than a century, the NAACP’s leaders, members, and supporters have been defined and distinguished by your unyielding determination to do what you believe is right. And I want to tell you how much I appreciate, and am inspired by, the example of strength that this organization continues to provide for our nation – and for me personally.
This convention is focused on issues of real consequence – issues that directly affect people’s lives and influence our nation’s course. So, today – like all of you – I’d like to focus on the future. And I want to discuss some of the ways we must continue to build upon the social, political, economic, educational, and legal progress that this organization – and generations of like-minded civil rights pioneers, activists, advocates, and champions – have struggled and sacrificed to bring about.
Today’s gathering presents an important opportunity to celebrate, and give thanks for, the visionary leaders – from W.E.B. DuBois and Ida B. Wells, to Charles Hamilton Houston, Walter White, Roy Wilkins, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., our dear friend John Payton, and Clarence Mitchell, Jr. – whose memory many of you gathered to honor yesterday, and whose critical work – as the NAACP’s Chief Advocate in Washington – is being carried on today, with a renewed spirit and dedication, by Hilary Shelton. This is a critical moment for each of us – not only to lift up their legacies, but to take up the work that became the cause of their lives. And it’s a chance to recommit ourselves, in this hour of need, to the effort that now constitutes our sacred charge, our solemn obligation, and our breathtaking opportunity.
Every one of us has the ability – and, I believe, the responsibility – to continue the work that has driven the NAACP’s record of achievement. In short, it is time – yet again – to put our energy and skills to good use – in advocating for the most vulnerable members of society; in protecting the liberty – and the sacred rights – of every single person in this country; in safeguarding the basic infrastructure of our democracy; in ensuring economic and educational opportunities for all of our countrymen – and women; and in carrying forward the fundamental and inclusive ideals upon which this country was founded, and which continue to drive our pursuit of a more perfect Union.
These were the values that a group of patriots first seized upon 236 years ago last week, when they gathered in Philadelphia to draft a declaration that shook the foundations of an empire and set in motion the great American experiment with which we are entrusted today. They are the principles that another generation fought and died to extend, less than a hundred years later, with the abolition of slavery in the aftermath of a terrible Civil War that remade our nation; and the ratification – exactly 144 years ago this week – of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which finally ensured due process, equal protection, and – for the first time – the full rights of citizenship for the African-American people who helped to build this nation and their heirs. Even within our own lifetimes, these are the essential ideals that have driven great leaders and ordinary citizens alike to stand up, to march forward, to reach out a hand, or simply to take a seat – at a lunch counter or the front of a bus, in a classroom or a courthouse – in order to bring about transformative, once-unimaginable progress.
One of these people was a brave young woman who – in her desire to attend her state’s public university, had to march past a defiant Governor George Wallace to integrate the University of Alabama. I am proud to say that this courageous young student, Vivian Malone, would later become my sister in law. In her pursuit of the educational opportunity she deserved, Vivian was represented by the legendary civil rights attorney – and former NAACP counsel – Fred Gray. With his assistance – and with support from organizations like yours, and with the backing of the Justice Department I now have the privilege to lead, Vivian was able to open new doors of opportunity. And, although she is no longer with us, her legacy continues to teach and inspire us.
If she were here with us this afternoon, I’m certain that Vivian would be proud to help celebrate how far our nation has traveled on the road to equality in the decades since she took her rightful place in that university classroom. But she’d also be the first to remind us that we still have much more to do; and that, despite the advances we’ve seen – and the fact that a direct beneficiary of the civil rights movement now sits in the Oval Office, and another has the honor of addressing you today as the 82nd Attorney General of the United States – our nation’s long struggle for freedom and fairness is far from over. In fact, much of the hardest work remains unfinished. And, for all the successes we’ve enjoyed and the milestones we’ve celebrated – today, in 2012 – we cannot, and we must not, ignore the fact that there are still neighborhoods in America’s most vibrant cities where too many kids go to prison, and too few to college; where our young people are involved in, and become victims of, violence; and where the doors to education and opportunity still seem closed. And there is too little outrage, and not nearly enough action, in response to the fact that – nationwide – homicide is the leading cause of death for black men between the ages of 15 and 24; and that more than 60 percent of young people of all races are exposed to violence at some point in their lives, either as victims or as witnesses – which can have devastating, long-term consequences that last well into adulthood.

This is unacceptable. And it’s why the leadership of organizations like the NAACP – and the engagement of activists throughout Texas and across the country – remains as vital as ever. It’s also why, under the Obama Administration, today’s Justice Department has made an unprecedented commitment to protecting the safety – and potential – of our children.
Through our landmark Defending Childhood Initiative and our National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, we’re developing strategies for reducing violence and countering its negative impact. I’m especially proud that, for the first time in history, the Department is now directing significant resources for the express purpose of addressing childhood exposure to violence, raising awareness of its ramifications, and advancing scientific inquiry on its causes and characteristics. We’re working closely with other federal agencies, educators, and state and local partners across the country to disrupt the “school to prison pipeline” that transforms too many of our schools from doorways to opportunity into gateways to the correctional system. And this is only the beginning.
At every level of this Administration, we’re working in new ways – and with a range of partners – to achieve fairness and expand opportunity – from successfully advocating for the reduction of the unjust 100-to-1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses, to launching a new emphasis on re-entry programs to ensure the successful reintegration into society of those who have become involved in the criminal justice system. Through the Justice Department’s new Access to Justice Office, we’re fighting to expand the availability of desperately needed legal services, and to advance pro bono initiatives – in both the public and private sectors – that can help provide representation for those who can’t afford it. And, by any measure, our determination to build on these efforts – particularly through the work of the Department’s Civil Rights Division – has, quite simply, never been stronger.
As Attorney General, I am often mindful of the fact that I have the great privilege – and the solemn duty – of overseeing the enforcement of many of the laws and reforms that the NAACP fought so hard to enact. I take this obligation seriously. It is at the forefront of all I do as Attorney General. For the Department I lead – and our allies across the country – this work is a top priority. And our approach has never been more effective.
Over the past three years, the Civil Rights Division has filed more criminal civil rights cases than ever before, including record numbers of police misconduct, hate crimes, and human trafficking cases. We’ve moved aggressively to combat continuing racial segregation in our schools – and to eliminate discriminatory practices in our housing and lending markets, where we recently achieved the largest residential fair lending settlement in American history. We’ve also worked to eliminate bias, combat intimidation, and ensure nothing but the highest standards of integrity and professionalism across our nation’s law enforcement community. And – alongside state, local, tribal, and international authorities – we’ve reinvigorated sweeping efforts to ensure that, in our workplaces and military bases; in our classrooms and places of worship; in our immigrant communities and our voting booths – the rights of all Americans are protected.

Nowhere is this clearer than in our work to combat hate crimes, and to bring those who commit these vicious acts to justice. Over the past three years, the Justice Department prosecuted 35 percent more hate crime cases than during the preceding three-year period. We’ve moved vigorously to enforce the landmark Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act – which the NAACP strongly supported, and which President Obama signed into law in 2009. And we’re working to bring together a range of allies and partners to help strengthen our collaborative efforts to make good on the promise of equal justice – and the protections of our legal system – in every sector of society.
At a fundamental level, this is the same commitment that has driven us to expand access to, and prevent discrimination in, America’s elections systems. And in jurisdictions across the country, it has compelled the Civil Right’s Division’s Voting Section to take meaningful steps to ensure integrity, independence, and transparency in our enforcement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – a law that the NAACP was instrumental in advancing.
Especially in recent months, Texas has – in many ways – been at the center of our national debate about voting rights issues. And I know many of you have been on the front lines of this fight. Here – as in a number of jurisdictions across the country – the Justice Department has initiated careful, thorough, and independent reviews of proposed voting changes – including redistricting plans, early voting procedures, photo identification requirements, and changes affecting third party registration organizations – in order to guard against disenfranchisement, and to help ensure that none of these proposals would have a discriminatory purpose or effect.
And, as many of you know, yesterday was the first day of trial in a case that the State of Texas filed against the Justice Department, under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, seeking approval of its proposed voter ID law. After close review, the Department found that this law would be harmful to minority voters – and we rejected its implementation.
Under the proposed law, concealed handgun licenses would be acceptable forms of photo ID – but student IDs would not. Many of those without IDs would have to travel great distances to get them – and some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them. Since the passage of this law, the NAACP and other leading civil rights organizations have been spearheading critical efforts to protect the rights of minority voters in this and other states. And a growing number of you are working to raise awareness about the potential impact of this and other similar laws – and the fact that – according to some recent studies – nationally, only 8% of white voting age citizens, while 25% of African-American voting age citizens, lack a government-issued photo ID. In our efforts to protect voting rights and to prevent voting fraud, we will be vigilant and strong. But let me be clear: we will not allow political pretexts to disenfranchise American citizens of their most precious right.

Now, I can’t predict the future. And I don’t know what will happen as this case moves forward. But I can assure you that the Justice Department’s efforts to uphold and enforce voting rights will remain aggressive. And I have every expectation that we’ll continue to be effective. The arc of American history has always moved toward expanding the electorate. It is what has made this nation exceptional. We will simply not allow this era to be the beginning of the reversal of that historic progress,
For this and other reasons, I am confident about where this work will lead us – and the progress that passionate advocates like all of you will continue to make possible. And as we carry these efforts into the future, there’s no question that we’ll keep relying on organizations like the NAACP to help extend essential protections – and to encourage broad-based engagement – on a host of other issues of national concern.

I’m sure that, like millions of others across the country, you were closely following last month’s decisions by the Supreme Court – to strike down major provisions of an Arizona law that would have effectively criminalized unlawful status, and to uphold essential components of the Affordable Care Act. As President Jealous and Chairman Brock noted, these monumental rulings constituted an important step forward – providing a clear and final decision on a landmark health care law that will offer desperately needed help to millions of Americans, and – in the Arizona decision – confirming the federal government’s exclusive authority to regulate on immigration issues, so that our nation speaks with one voice in this important area.

I’m pleased that, in both cases, the Court broadly affirmed the government’s position as argued by the Justice Department. However, I remain concerned about the practical impact of the remaining provision of the Arizona law that requires local law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of anyone they even suspect to be here illegally. No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like. Going forward, we must ensure that Arizona law enforcement officials do not enforce this law in a manner that undermines the civil rights of Americans. In this work, I can assure you that the Department of Justice will continue to be vigilant.

At the same time, I recognize that the Justice Department will never be able to do it all – and that it simply won’t be possible for government to make all of the progress we need, and that the American people deserve, on our own.

So, this afternoon, as we come together to celebrate the power of individual voices, and the strength of collective action – we must also take stock of what’s left to do, and reflect on the responsibilities that each one of us shares – to ourselves, to those whose memories we honor this week, and – of course – to our children. Although the direction we must take is clear, the road ahead is far from certain. Significant obstacles and unprecedented threats remain to be confronted. And overcoming these challenges is sure to be anything but easy.

But I firmly believe that – if the leaders in this room heed the lessons of our past and follow the examples of our predecessors; if we keep faith in one another, and in our democratic institutions; and if we rededicate ourselves to the essential work of helping freedom grow, and extending the blessings of our Constitution to all men and women – there is no limit to the progress we can make, or the distance we must – and will – travel together in the days ahead.

Once again, thank you for your commitment to – and leadership of – this work. May God continue to bless our journey. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Congratulations Serena and Venus!

Talk about a wasn't long ago that Serena was battling a life threatening health issues.  She's back and stronger than ever being the first woman over 30 to win since the 1990's.

Williams sisters on Saturday teamed up to win a fifth Wimbledon doubles title
"Coming here and winning today is amazing," she said. "It's been an unbelievable journey for me." Serena Williams

Serena Williams Wimbledon
Serena Williams won her fifth Wimbledon Singles Title today!  Five hours later, she also won her fifth Wimbledon doubles title (also their 13th major doubles title) with her sister Venus Williams today.  They have won 10 of the last 13 singles titles at the All England Club.

Serena WilliamsRead more:

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Today in African American History, July, 01

On July 1 in Black History...
In 1877, Benjamin O. Davis Sr., the first modern American Black General was born.
In 1888, Ben Taylor was born on this date in 1888. He was an African-American baseball player of the Negro Leagues. Ben Taylor played the game like few others could!
In 1893, Walter Francis White was born on this date in 1893. He was an African-American activist and administrator and NAACP guide during the 20th Century.
In 1910, the first classes commenced at North Carolina Central University (NCCU).

Thomas Dorsey
In 1899, Thomas Dorsey was born.  Dorsey was an American pianist, arranger and composer, known as the "Father of Gospel Music."  was at one time so closely associated with the field that songs written in the new style were sometimes known as "dorseys."Earlier in his life he was a leading blues pianist known as Georgia Tom.  As formulated by Dorsey, gospel music combines Christian praise with the rhythms of jazz and the blues. His conception also deviates from what had been, to that time, standard hymnal practice by referring explicitly to the self, and the self's relation to faith and God, rather than the individual subsumed into the group via belief.
Dorsey, who was born in Villa Rica, Georgia, was the music director at Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago from 1932 until the late 1970s. His best known composition, "Take My Hand, Precious Lord", was performed by Mahalia Jackson and was a favorite of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.. Another composition, "Peace in the Valley", was a hit for Red Foley in 1951 and has been performed by dozens of other artists, including Queen of Gospel Albertina Walker, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. Dorsey died in Chicago, aged 93.
In 2002, the Library of Congress honored his album Precious Lord: New Recordings of the Great Songs of Thomas A. Dorsey (1973), by adding it to the United States National Recording Registry

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Honored At Last

"It makes me feel good to be here today to see the advancement that the black Marines have made since I was in there...I never thought this day would ever come I never thought they cared much about us."
Clarence Hunt, 86, of Louisville, Ky

A group of African-Americans who were the first blacks to join the Marine Corps were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, a top civilian honor, in belated recognition for their service during World War II.
At a ceremony on June 27 in the Capitol's Emancipation Hall, lawmakers praised the men for stepping up to serve the country, even though they faced a segregated military and nation that didn't fully accept them.

Read more here:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Remembering Michael...

In the summer of 1983, Thriller had begun to decline in sales. Walter Yetnikoff and Larry Stessel answered calls throughout the night from Jackson. "Walter, the record isn’t No. 1 anymore...What are we going to do about it?" 

"My idea was to make this short film with conversation ... in the beginning - I like having a beginning and a middle and an ending, which would follow a story. I'm very much involved in complete making and creating of the piece. It has to be, you know, my soul. Usually, you know, it's an interpretation of the music. It was a delicate thing to work on because I remember my original approach was, 'How do you make zombies and monsters dance without it being comical?' So I said, 'We have to do just the right kind of movement so it doesn't become something that you laugh at.' But it just has to take it to another level. So I got in a room with [choreographer] Michael Peters, and he and I together kind of imagined how these zombies move by making faces in the mirror. I used to come to rehearsal sometimes with monster makeup on, and I loved doing that. So he and I collaborated and we both choreographed the piece and I thought it should start like that kind of thing and go into this jazzy kind of step, you know. Kind of gruesome things like that, not too much ballet or whatever."
—Michael Jackson, interview that aired December 11, 1999, for MTV's 100 Greatest Videos Ever Made

Michael Jackson's Thriller is a 13-minute-and-43-second music video for the song of the same name released on December 2, 1983 and directed by John Landis, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Jackson.
Voted as the most influential pop music video of all time, Thriller proved to have a profound effect on popular culture, and was named "a watershed moment for the [music] industry" for its unprecedented merging of filmmaking and music. Guinness World Records listed it in 2006 as the "most successful music video", selling over 9 million units. In 2009, the video was inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, the first music video to ever receive this honor, for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant.
Co-starring with Jackson was Ola Ray. The video was choreographed by Michael Peters (who had worked with the singer on his prior hit "Beat It"), and Michael Jackson. The video also contains incidental music by film music composer Elmer Bernstein, who had previously worked with Landis on An American Werewolf in London. The video (like the song) contains a spoken word performance by horror film veteran Vincent Price. Rick Baker assisted in prosthetics and makeup for the production. "Thriller" was the third and final video for the Thriller album. The red jacket that Jackson wore was designed by John Landis' wife Deborah Landis to make him appear more "virile".
To qualify for an Academy Award, "Thriller" debuted at a special theatrical screening, along with the 1940 Disney motion picture Fantasia.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Happy Birthday David Blackwell

David Blackwell
1919 - 2010
On April 24 in Black History...

In 1919, Dr. David Blackwell was born in Centralia, IL.  Dr. David Blackwell is a theoretical statistician noted for his teaching and work in game and probability theory. He is first and only African-American member of the National Academy of Sciences. Blackwell’s research in mathematics and statistics have found application in many fields including economics and accounting.

Check out his advice to young people today:

Blackwell's view on mathematics:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Black Women impacting health, sports and Title 9

Jemele Hill, ESPN columnist and Ashley Hicks, Co-Founder of Black Girls Run! talk about Title 9, womens health and championing female athletes.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Remembering the Nameless...

"I just sat in there for a moment and pondered the courage and tenacity that is part of our very recent history but is also part of that long line of folks who sometimes are nameless, oftentimes didn't make the history books, but who constantly insisted on their dignity, their share of the American dream"
President Barack Obama
April 18, 2012

Just before speaking at a fundraiser in Detroit yesterday, President Barack Obama was able to visit and reflect upon an iconic piece of civil rights history. The president told supporters at the Henry Ford Museum he was able to sit briefly on the bus made famous by activist Rosa Parks whose refusal to move from her seat for a white passenger sparked the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott in 1955.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Manning Marable Wins Pulitzer Prize

Manning Marable
1950 - 2011
The 2012 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced today and among them, the late Manning Marable who won the Pulitzer Prize for history Monday, honored for his book, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, which was decades in the making.

Marable was a professor of public affairs, history and African-American Studies at Columbia University. Marable founded and directed the Institute for Research in African-American Studies. Marable authored several texts and was active in progressive political causes.

Marable's Writings:  

Scat Arrives on the Scene...Giving Songs Flavor

On April 16 in Black History...

Don Redman
In 1924, Don Redman performed the first recorded scat vocals while a member of Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra. Scat singing is an improvised vocal instrumentation composed of nonsense syllables. Don Redman scatted a few bars of "My Papa Doesn't Two-Time No Time," recorded in New York by Columbia. Although Louis Armstrong is generally credited with having recorded the first scat vocals, Don Redman actually preceded him.

"Tony Jackson and myself were using scat for novelty back in 1906 and 1907 when Louis Armstrong was still in the orphan’s home" 
Jelly Roll Morton

Jelly Roll Morton

The technical definition (according to wikipedia) vocal jazz, scat singing is vocal improvisation with wordless vocables, nonsense (or is it?) syllables or without words at all. Scat singing gives singers the ability to sing improvised melodies and rhythms, to create the equivalent of an instrumental solo using their voice. Though scat singing is improvised, the melodic lines are often variations on scale. The deliberate choice of scat syllables also is a key element in vocal jazz improvisation. Syllable choice influences the pitch articulation, coloration, and resonance of the performance. Syllable choice also differentiated jazz singers' personal styles.

Jelly Roll Morton credited Joe Sims of Vicksburg, Mississippi as the creator of scat around the turn of the 20th century. Here is a transcription of a conversation between Alan Lomax and Jelly Roll Morton where Morton explains the definition and history of scat:
Lomax: Well, what about some more scat songs, that you used to sing way back then?
Morton: Oh, I'll sing you some scat songs. That was way before Louis Armstrong's time. By the way, scat is something that a lot of people don't understand, and they begin to believe that the first scat numbers was ever done, was done by one of my hometown boys, Louie Armstrong. But I must take the credit away, since I know better. The first man that ever did a scat number in history of this country was a man from Vicksburg, Mississippi, by the name of Joe Sims, an old comedian. And from that,Tony Jackson and myself, and several more grabbed it in New Orleans. And found it was pretty good for an introduction of a song.
Lomax: What does scat mean?
Morton: Scat doesn't mean anything but just something to give a song a flavor. For an instance we'll say...

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